The First Year of Tetrapod Zoology Ver 4

It’s July 31st 2019, meaning that TetZoo the blog has been at its new home here – tetzoo.com, previously occupied only by the podcast and the TetZooCon page – for a whole year.

If there’s ever a TetZoo Park, it’ll have a lot of tapirs, especially Kabomani ones. Image: Patrick Murphy.

If there’s ever a TetZoo Park, it’ll have a lot of tapirs, especially Kabomani ones. Image: Patrick Murphy.

As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, I already do birthday articles every January 21st (doing these is a good way of keeping track of the year’s events), but being at a new hosting site is enough of a big deal that I feel it’s worthy of a special article too. This article also exists as a one-stop list of links for all ver 4 articles published so far.

Who doesn’t love bigfoot, wailing in the dark? More colorful versions of this image are   available on merchandise at the TetZoo redbubble shop  . Image: Darren Naish.

Who doesn’t love bigfoot, wailing in the dark? More colorful versions of this image are available on merchandise at the TetZoo redbubble shop. Image: Darren Naish.

Ver 4 started its life with an obligatory ‘Welcome to ver 4’ article but we were immediately deep in extreme niche: specifically cryptozoology, more specifically bigfoot (still one of my favourite subjects in the world, however things pan out), and more specifically still the genitals of bigfoot. Yes, it was a vile, cheap effort to rake in readership, but by fuck did it work. A few dinosaur-themed book reviews followed, as did a popular and fun article on the vexing (and somehow topical as of August 2018) issue of dinosaur domestication.

The  Vectidraco daisymorrisae  holotype (NHMUK PV R36621) in (A) left lateral, (B) right lateral, (C) dorsal and (D) ventral views, and - at right - shown in anatomical position as per the animal's presumed profile in life. Image: figures from  Naish  et al . (2013) .

The Vectidraco daisymorrisae holotype (NHMUK PV R36621) in (A) left lateral, (B) right lateral, (C) dorsal and (D) ventral views, and - at right - shown in anatomical position as per the animal's presumed profile in life. Image: figures from Naish et al. (2013).

For understandable reasons, another thing I often blog about is the research I publish, and August 2018 saw me writing about the new paper on pterosaur palaeoneurology I published with Liz Martin-Silverstone and Dan Sykes (Martin-Silverstone et al. 2018). The evolutionary history and diversity of modern animal groups are – surprisingly to many – not well covered in the literature, nor online, and it’s partly for these reasons that I often write review articles on given groups when I can (oh, for more opportunity to do this). August’s article on mastigures is one of the latest example of this noble tradition; I hope it proves useful.

Megaloceros  cheat-sheet, from the   September 2018 article on the life appearance of this animal  . Image: Darren Naish.

Megaloceros cheat-sheet, from the September 2018 article on the life appearance of this animal. Image: Darren Naish.

And so to September 2018. A long-running project I’d been involved in over the past several years – the travelling, immersive Dinosaurs in the Wild experience – came to an end in September, and I just had to write about it, one more time. I also wrote about the giant deer Megaloceros (part of a slow-burn series on the life appearance of Pleistocene mammals), and I also covered TetZoo-relevant meetings of the time: the Dougal Dixon After Man event and TetZooCon 2018.

A  Tapirus terrestris  at Chester Zoo, UK. Relevant to tapir discussions   covered here in October 2018  . Image: Darren Naish.

A Tapirus terrestris at Chester Zoo, UK. Relevant to tapir discussions covered here in October 2018. Image: Darren Naish.

Avocets and tapirs – the infamous Kabomani tapir, no less (did I mention that there’s a new tapir?) – were covered here in October, while November saw New Living Animals We Want to Find, another dinosaur-themed book review, a report of the ZSL ‘Comical Tales From the Animal Kingdom’ meeting, thoughts on an alleged 16th century dino-chicken, news on the second edition of the Naish & Barrett book Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved (Naish & Barrett 2018), a brief review of Erroll Fuller’s Passenger pigeon book, and a really fun article on the pouches of the Sungrebe. Wow, that was a busy month. The dino-chicken article includes a serious gaff and a follow-up article is needed. It’s coming, I promise.

Head of the reclining Crystal Palace  Iguanodon . There’s an awful lot to say about these models… and I’m pretty sure they’ve been extensively discussed on a blog run by a colleague of mine. If only I could remember the name of it, or the url. Ok, ok,   Mark Witton   has been discussing all the models A LOT. Image: Darren Naish.

Head of the reclining Crystal Palace Iguanodon. There’s an awful lot to say about these models… and I’m pretty sure they’ve been extensively discussed on a blog run by a colleague of mine. If only I could remember the name of it, or the url. Ok, ok, Mark Witton has been discussing all the models A LOT. Image: Darren Naish.

And we saw the year out with articles from December on TetZoo’s 12th birthday, the Crystal Palace prehistoric animal models, and one on exciting TetZoo-themed discoveries of 2018.

That’s 27 articles over the five months in which ver 4 had - at this point - existed (I can’t count July, seeing as things kicked off on July 31st), meaning that 5.4 articles were published each month. That’s reasonable value for money, if I say so myself – more than one new article per week. Surely I couldn’t keep up such superhuman levels of productivity across 2019 as well? Let’s find out…

Gerhard Heilmann’s take on the appearance of ‘Proavis’ - a hypothetical bird ancestor - as illustrated in his Danish book of 1916. For more see   the article on Heilmann and his Proavis from January 2019  . Image: Heilmann (1916).

Gerhard Heilmann’s take on the appearance of ‘Proavis’ - a hypothetical bird ancestor - as illustrated in his Danish book of 1916. For more see the article on Heilmann and his Proavis from January 2019. Image: Heilmann (1916).

January 2019 was off to a good start, with articles on hypothetical proavians (follow-up article still needed), the life appearance of sauropods, and the obligatory birthday review all appearing during the month. More new(ish) books were reviewed in February, I also wrote about potoos on the internet, my personal recollections of the Dinosaurs Past and Present exhibition of the late 1980s and early 90s, and another new published piece of academic research (a new paper on a Late Cretaceous nesting colony, dominated by archaic birds; Fernández et al. 2019).

Pretty soon there’ll be an entire wing of Tet Zoo Towers devoted to Loch Ness literature. Image: Darren Naish.

Pretty soon there’ll be an entire wing of Tet Zoo Towers devoted to Loch Ness literature. Image: Darren Naish.

More on cryptozoology was published in March as I got through two of the promised three connected reviews of books on the Loch Ness Monster (the third will appear within the next month or two). Also worth mentioning here is the April article on my paper with Charles Paxton on sea monster sightings and whether they were shaped by people’s familiarity with fossil marine reptiles (Paxton & Naish 2019), and my recollections of a popular children’s book on monsters.

Slow loris, sloth and hypothetical pre-hominid, three ‘cautious climbers’ illustrated in the   cautious climber article of March 2019  . Image: Darren Naish.

Slow loris, sloth and hypothetical pre-hominid, three ‘cautious climbers’ illustrated in the cautious climber article of March 2019. Image: Darren Naish.

Articles on the cautious climber hypothesis of hominid origins, sleep behaviour, New World leaf-nosed bats, and cocks-of-the-rock all appeared during April 2019. May was fairly eclectic and featured articles on the creatures of Star Wars, the way in which Styracosaurus has been depicted in books and movies, birdwatching in China, and cases where animals have been killed by falling rocks and trees. An unusual personal article dedicated to the life of the older of our family dogs – Willow – also appeared in May.

I have it bad for the Big G. Here’s a recent addition to my toy and model collection. Image: Darren Naish.

I have it bad for the Big G. Here’s a recent addition to my toy and model collection. Image: Darren Naish.

June – we’re in recent memory now – included articles on Godzilla: King of the Monsters, my reminiscences of Watson’s Whales of the World, thoughts on books about woodpeckers, and a review of Witton’s The Palaeoartist’s Handbook. Bringing us right up to date, we have my July pieces on dunnocks, Palaeolithic rock art and gulls.

Sleep well, little, err, giant panda. From Chengdu Panda Base. Image: Darren Naish.

Sleep well, little, err, giant panda. From Chengdu Panda Base. Image: Darren Naish.

Excluding the article you’re reading now, that gives us 27 (again, oddly) 2019 articles across the first six months of the year, giving us a lower output of 4.5 articles per month… so, still more than one a week. I’ll say at this point that it’s the support I receive via patreon that allows me to be, and remain, productive here at TetZoo, so huge thanks to those who assist. My other projects – technical research and various in-prep books (not least of which is The Vertebrate Fossil Record) – are also dependent on patreon support.

I constantly upload in-prep stuff to patreon,   support me there   and see it come together :)

I constantly upload in-prep stuff to patreon, support me there and see it come together :)

So there we have it: a quick review of what’s happened at ver 4 so far. As I’m sure I always say, there’s tons more I plan to write about, the current to-do list featuring some ungodly number of articles that are partially written, or planned, or in some preliminary stage of preparation. I would do so much more if I could. Overall, I’m happy with the way things are going at ver 4. Finally, I’m free of adverts (like those crow-barred in at SciAm) and have control over commenting (something I care about and want to encourage, not curtail). The community here is healthy and growing, and it can only continue to grow and expand as ver 4 itself incorporates more articles on an increasing number of subjects. Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll continue to do so. Here’s to the first year of ver 4.

The inevitable consequence of overlapping obsessions: actinopterygians and tapirs. Result: mertapir. Image: Darren Naish.

The inevitable consequence of overlapping obsessions: actinopterygians and tapirs. Result: mertapir. Image: Darren Naish.